From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 27, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 27, 1999

At almost every meeting regarding recreation in St. John Parish, the needfor volunteers is brought up.

A number of professional baseball players from the River Parishes looked to set an example for others this weekend, providing instruction for local youngsters at the inaugural S.P.A.C.E. instructional baseball camp.S.P.A.C.E. (Supporting Parks and Children Equally) is a non-profitorganization to help recreation in the parish. The camp was held to raisemoney for parish recreation and with the help of those professional athletes, it did just that.

River Parishes athletes Lenny Webster, Carl Schutz, Courtney Mitchell and Thomas Pittman along with Trinadad Hubbard of the Los Angeles Dodgers and other professional players gave of their time to help local youngsters realize the same dream they have achieved – to play professional baseball.

Many of these players overcame adversity to get where they are now through hard work and dedication. Few had the same instruction that theywere now giving to the campers. But along the way, they paid attention totheir coaches and practiced what they learned. Now, they were taking thetime to give back to the communities that had supported them growing up.

None of these players had to do what they did. Each is busy preparing to goto spring training in a couple of weeks. But each was willing to spend timeto help others learn the game that they love. And from the looks on theplayers’ faces, they appeared to be enjoying teaching as much as the youngsters enjoyed learning and being around Major Leaguers.

The night before the camp at a social at the Joseph Arcuri Center, the players donated memorabilia from their personal collections to be auctioned and raffled off. Included were balls and bats autographed byBarry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. The auction helped raise over $1,000 forrecreation in the parish.

With the recent NBA lockout and sky rocketing salaries, much has been made about the selfishness of professional athletes. But how many timesdo we hear about events like that which took place over this past weekend? For every surly player that makes headlines, there are a dozen giving back to their communities in anonymity.

Last year, it became more and more obvious that baseball players in particular were looking to become more fan friendly, becoming more open.

Perhaps the Major League’s programs to help players improve their image are beginning to work. Or maybe more nice guys are making it to the MajorLeagues.

But whatever the reason, events like Saturday are becoming more commonplace. And if professional players can do it, why not the rest ofus?

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